There were other fanhistory-related events at LoneStarCon besides interviews. One of them was a panel in remembrance of one of the most respected fan personalities of all time -- Sam Moskowitz. SaM, as he was known throughout fandom, was chairman of the very first worldcon, the 1939 Nycon, and in later years he became known as a historian and researcher. Fandom will miss him. But SaM was also no stranger to controversy, and became involved in some unpleasant feuds over the years. Here's more about...
'SaM -- Fan Forever' by Dave Kyle, 
  illo by Diana Stein
 The Big Event was about to take place for me in less than one month.

 On the July 4th weekend, 1939, the eagerly anticipated World's Science Fiction Convention was being held in New York City. It was now June and I had returned back to my home town of Monticello, N.Y., from my first year in college. For nine months I had been out of action in the fannish world whose cauldron of intrigue had bubbled away without me. Now I was ready to return to the exciting battleground of fandom.

 The obvious fray capturing my attention was the to-the-death power struggle between the forces of the Futurians (the good guys) and those of New Fandom (the bad guys) over the big event -- our World's Convention (later shortened to just 'World Convention') planned as part of the much publicized New York World's Fair.

 I have previously mentioned the strong rivalry that had developed between the leaders of the International Scientific Association (the ISA), subsequently identified as the Futurians, and the newly-formed group called New Fandom. {{ed. note: see Dave's article "The Great Exclusion Act of 1939" in Mimosa 6 }} And I have explained the genesis of that rivalry through 1937 and 1938. {{ed. note: see Dave's article "Farewell, Teens, Farewell" in Mimosa 20 }} In that previous article, I reported how the dynamic young Sam Moskowitz teamed up with the older, former ISA leader William S. Sykora to form a new counter force called 'New Fandom'. Much had transpired in New York fandom during my absence at college, but my sympathies lay with the Futurians, led by Wollheim, Pohl, and Michel. I was not part of the worldcon committee of three which had gained control: Moskowitz, Sykora, and James V. Taurasi, referred to by their detractors as the 'Triumphant Trio'.

 And so it was that I was out of touch and only on the fringe as the Great Confrontation was shaping up for that holiday weekend.

 I could see the possibility of an horrendous (from my fannish point of view) clash marring the upcoming convention which I so much wanted to be a wonderful success. What contribution could I make? I was not part of the active political intensity of the Futurians, nor was I available to or wanted by the Trio. That is how the "infamous yellow pamphlet" came about as my contribution to that historic first world sf convention.

 I had met Sam Moskowitz in 1937 in one of the follow-up, fannish excursions by New Yorkers to Philadelphia now being identified as 'conventions'. I didn't really get to know him, because in 1937 and 1938 I was back in Monticello working as a newspaperman to save money to go to college, and I came to New York City only to visit my friends of the exclusive old ISA crowd -- Pohl, Wollheim, Lowndes, Wilson, Wylie, Kornbluth, even an occasional Asimov. And then, from 1938 to the spring of 1939, I was away at the University of Alabama. But up to that time, I had attended all the conventions that had been held over those two years and had observed the perseverence and enthusiasm of a teen-age SaM who, in his maturing, was growing in influence and force of character.

 It was the "dynamic" Moskowitz whom I was about to see in action within a month, a Sykora puppet who was well on his way to cutting away all the manipulative strings binding him and thus to be his own man. It was the real beginning of my knowing him: SaM, Fan Forever.

# # # #

 There will never be another SaM.

 Sam Moskowitz, honored by many and derided by some, is that genuine figure so important in our peculiar world of science fiction -- the fan who became a professional who never stopped being a fan.

 Kind words, if often qualified, have been said and written -- and will continue to be written -- of a young man who from his early age grew into a powerful voice in our unique genre of literature.

 I knew him as a warm and friendly man and felt obliged to explain or forgive his actions as criticized by those who dismissed him as an over-enthusiastic, self-obsessed, unreasonably compulsive and opinionated interpreter of the sf scene. Certainly, SaM was a genuine enthusiast on behalf of science fiction. Certainly, he was self-confident in his knowledge and opinions. No one who heard him speak either informally or professionally could miss the force of his words or the compelling stentorian power of his booming voice. He was never at a loss for words and was frequently a butt for snide remarks about his pontification and inaccuracy about some of his factual statements, whether inadvertent or deliberate. In the memory of many is the time at a worldcon banquet when he was eulogizing "Doc" Smith, who was about to receive an award. As the audience fidgeted, there was the insistent unseen tugging on SaM's coattails while he still had ten more years to cover, until SaM finally took the hint. That was SaM.

 After the medical loss of his vocal cords, he carried on magnificently. I was constantly impressed by his ability to utilize so effectively the gadget he placed on his throat which he, good-humoredly, alluded to as sounding like "the voice of a robot," which it did. But to me it was truly a terrible shame and a loss that a room no longer vibrated from his loud expressions on all subjects and his staccato guffaws as he appreciated his own jokes.

 The effect of this self-educated man in our field will last for a long time, perhaps forever. Without a doubt, his early history of fandom, The Immortal Storm, will be the seminal work of a dedicated fan, chock-full of trivial details, prejudices, biases, juvenile passions, and inconsistencies -- the result of extensive gleanings from a hodgepodge of fannish publications and letters. It is a book of fascinating, mostly inconsequential observations of an unorganized society of youthful aficionados, bubbling with the fanatic voices of overblown, immature egos. Those days before worldcons came about were a glorious time of uninhibited written expressions revolving around a world that Hugo Gernsback had deliberately created.

 SaM was a unique personality, a presence of considerable strength whenever or wherever fannish activities took place. He has the distinction of being the first worldcon chairman, who rightly or wrongly, shaped that historical event with an unfortunately ugly blemish, the Great Exclusion Act.

 He was at the apex of so many of our fannish milestones, an image of First Fandom which he never fully embraced nor worked for, probably feeling greater than the whole. He was the undisputed ruler for a very long time of his own little fiefdom near his home in Newark, New Jersey -- ESFA, the celebrated Eastern Science Fiction Association.

 His fannish writings were a self-imposed muddle of objectivity and personal beliefs. He made no secret of his opinionated judgement of both fandom and prodom. While he was considered by many to be the leading authority on science fiction, he was also considered by many to have been a seriously flawed researcher whose reporting and analysis of our literature was very suspect for its interpretations, misinformation, and inaccuracies. Damon Knight, noted for his keen observation and blunt criticisms of our genre in general and our writers in particular, had something significant to say about SaM in his collection of essays entitled In Search of Wonder: "Sam Moskowitz is a man I have disagreed with about as often as he has opened his hundred-decibel mouth. He has many admirable qualities; he's worked as hard for fandom as anyone living; he edited the foredoomed Science-Fiction Plus, according to report, with vigor and integrity beyond the call of duty. The only trouble with him, in fact, is his incredible talent for being wrong." Inevitably, SaM took to his typewriter to challenge Damon in pages of rebuttal. SaM's proficiency and verboseness behind a typewriter, or for that matter, in front of an audience, was as remarkable as Isaac Asimov's "compulsive typing" was to Fred Pohl.

illo by Diana Stein  SaM was an avowed historian and was accepted as such. He and I were, therefore, both colleagues and friendly competitors. The platform upon which he built his reputation was fannish. The Immortal Storm, assembled forty years ago from his fanzine pieces from the previous decades, is a monumental work of facts and hearsay gathered and filtered through his own perspective. From that experience of digging through records, SaM became a noted compiler of obscure early or overlooked science fiction going back into the nineteenth century. The books he generated from other people's works are remarkable, fascinating, and a testament to his persevering dedication, a vehicle for his opinions and views shaped by his own interpretations and beliefs.

 My most noteworthy example of SaM's tendency to shape information to suit his own perspectives, prejudices, and beliefs is that infamous 'Yellow Pamphlet' which precipitated the banning from the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 of some prominent fans, including Fred Pohl, Don Wollheim, and Cyril Kornbluth. I printed the pamphlet and they were blamed for it. SaM reprinted half of the pamphlet in his Storm, that part which made my argument that freedom of speech would be impaired and that authoritarianism would be imposed. He chose to present my negative remarks and censored my positive remarks. Thus, his seemingly factual report of the pamphlet was made to sound completely hostile, totally harsh and an unremitting pre-judged condemnation, which it was not. His excerpt misled readers by his deliberate, untruthful comment that "The booklet ended after a few more paragraphs of a similar nature."

 In 1989, because of the persistence of the Mimosa editors, I wrote my first in this continuing series of reminiscences about science fiction and fandom. That first installment, "The Great Exclusion Act of 1939," was stimulated by persistent questions over the years about that situation and my part in it. The article was succinct -- barely 800 words of commentary and 1200 words of the complete original text of the pamphlet.

 As could be expected, Sam took to his typewriter and fired off a twelve-page voluminous explanation and rebuttal. I didn't see that reply {{ ed. note: it was later published in full by a Colorado fan, Norm Metcalf }}, but it was in effect a rejection of what I considered a temperate dismissal of the pamphlet incident as a juvenile tempest-in-a-teapot, albeit serious at the time. SaM was firmly anchored to the past. He did not want to forget the past nor seemingly let bygones be bygones. I've been encouraged to recall the past dispassionately in Mimosa for the enjoyment, surprisingly to me, of new generations. For SaM, unfortunately, the past rankled.

 How it festered for him is illustrated by what happened the other year concerning a Lunacon, the big annual East Coast spring gathering sponsored by the Lunarians, a New York City fan club. SaM had been asked to write a piece for the program book on the fan guest of honor, whom we both knew. When I read it, and became aware of its implications, I felt insulted and was thoroughly annoyed. SaM had taken the occasion to resurrect an old fan feud which had involved me and left the impression that I had been guilty of malfeasance. He didn't mention that a lawsuit by me had cleared me and forced a retraction by my persecutors. I complained to the Lunacon committee and, receiving an apology, was told that the article had been rushed into print without being checked. They said it never should have happened. Later I confronted SaM on this. He acted bewildered over my reaction and said he meant no harm, but he didn't apologize. That was SaM.

 And there's another example of his deliberate or unwitting pettiness which I have just learned about at the recent San Antonio worldcon. Because of his recent death, his name came up in the Ops Room and Mark Blackman, a Lunarian and veteran con volunteer, told me a story which startled me, irritated me, and yet amused me. I simply had to put it on record and asked Mark to write it in my ubiquitous convention memory book. Here's what he wrote: "Oddly, my last conversation with SaM was to correct him on a point of fan history regarding you [Dave Kyle] and Lunacons. A Lunarians information sheet had listed you and SaM as founding members of the club. He came to me to 'correct' us. Dave, he said, was not involved with the Lunarians for its first year. The next time I saw [SaM] I told him that I had checked the minutes of the very first Lunarians meeting, November 1956. Not only was Dave involved, but at that meeting he was elected [the club's first] President. Moreover, SaM himself was not present at the meeting, but as he had expressed interest, was, as a courtesy, considered a founding member." That was SaM, you bet.

 SaM gloried in his ability to deal with details in an incredibly precise way. Everyone who knew him or heard him speak recognized this remarkable talent for pontificating, especially on the past. Oft times his facts were wrong or weirdly misleading. However, I rarely challenged his information. I recall one con panel we shared when, because of my personal first-hand knowledge, I did contradict him. SaM had claimed that Robert A. Heinlein, who lived in Colorado Springs, had named his house 'Broadmoor'. "How did you know the house's name?" I had asked. "It was printed on Heinlein's stationery," he'd replied. Then I explained why it wasn't so: 'Broadmoor', I said, was the name of the very famous resort hotel across the street from where Heinlein had lived. Bob Heinlein had used the hotel in many ways, such as the writing room, and entertained guests there, such as my wife Ruth and me. That's the origin of the 'Broadmoor' which topped many letters of his.

 SaM had also told the audience that Heinlein had a 'bomb shelter' in his front yard. However, I had seen what he really had, and informed the audience that it was a very well-equipped and elaborate fallout shelter. Considering that he lived at the foot of the Rocky Mountain into which was tunneled the notorious North American Defense Command, a 'bomb shelter' would have been ridiculous, but a fallout shelter was fashionable and practical for Bob as a military man.

 These may seem like trivial criticisms, but they're not. A respected researcher like SaM considered himself to be isn't permitted to be careless with the facts.

 The wonder of it all is that, in person, we always got along very well. He went with Ruth and me on our honeymoon to the Worldcon in England in 1957 -- along with 52 other fans in my chartered airplane. The best evidence that we were ostensibly good friends was the fact that he and I were co-chairmen of the highly successful Metrocon of 1954, which was my preparation for the chairmanship of the 14th Worldcon some two years later. Ruth even gave Christine some helpful hints when she was setting her cap for SaM, her husband to be. Ruth later, however, lost all tolerance for SaM because of his snide remarks. I tried to explain to her that SaM's sense of humor made them sound unfriendly, but she took them at face value.

 The influence of the BNFs, the Big Name Fans, sometimes fades away. SaM's may diminish, but it will not disappear. I predict, should historical fandom survive the plethora of modern-day fandoms of science fiction and its offshoots, that he will become, in another fifty years, a half-forgotten legendary figure. One must consider that SaM was more than just a historian -- he was also a fabulous collector of science fiction artifacts. His extensive paper collection is, I am assured, unparalleled. I certainly regret that I was never invited to view it. If it eventually becomes available, it will be his finest legacy to us all.

 Farewell, Sam Moskowitz. You were a huge part of my very special science fiction life. We had our differences, but I never thought of you as an enemy. You seemed to have always clung to the idea of my role as a willing cat's paw for the hated Futurians. That scar from the past left by the Futurians never healed for you. You were firmly anchored to the past -- which made you such a prolific researcher and historian. You strove to remember and reconstruct the past with obsessive passion. It was your greatest strength, and also your greatest weakness.

All illustrations by Diana Harlan Stein

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